Counting to two is getting harder and harder to do in the music world. Case in point: Katy Perry’s new song “Dark Horse,” the second single from her third album, Prism. Except, well, I shouldn’t be calling it the album’s second single, as it’s not officially being released as such. Instead, it’s the song fans voted to hear next, and Perry is obliging them by sharing it with them, an “unofficial” release strategy she’ll soon be employing with the album’s next non-single, “Walking on Air,” as well. “Remember these are NOT singles, just tastes to enjoy!” she explained via Twitter. “#ROAR is still ROARING & 2nd single from PRISM will not be announced for some time…”
Official single or not, there’s little that Katy Perry releases or not-really releases that doesn’t turn into chart gold or platinum. So a review of each is almost always mandated … but not just for that reason. Read on.
Where ” Roar” is a typical-sounding Perry pop song about finding your voice and using it, “Dark Horse” finds Katy in a different, darker place. Peppy piano gets replaced with ominous, rap-style bass beats at first, then a synthy, EDM build-up before the chorus. Add in Memphis rapper Juicy J on the second verse, and it seems that Katy and her producers are trying to cover all of their musical bases on a single track.
The song’s about an uncertain beau who gets a stern-but-suggestive warning against messing with his gal if he’s not willing to commit—and submit—completely to her way of doing things. “I knew you were gonna come to me,” Katy tells him at the outset. “And here you are/But you better choose carefully/’Cause I’m capable of anything/Of anything and everything.”
So is she seducing him? Or trying to scare him off? Turns out, a little of both. “Make me your Aphrodite/Make me your one and only,” she instructs. Then the chorus: “So you wanna play with magic/Boy, you should know whatcha falling for/Baby, don’t you dare do this/’Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse/Are you ready for, ready for/A perfect storm?” Then another warning: “‘Cause once you’re mine once you’re mine/There’s no going back.”
Lest he gets too freaked out, Katy sprinkles a bit more suggestive sugar on top of the second verse. “This love will make you levitate/Like a bird/Like a bird without a cage,” she coos. But give her a bit of credit for demanding commitment before consummation: “It’s a yes or no, no maybe,” she tells him. “So just be sure before you give it up to me.”
If Katy’s mean-sweet-manipulative come-on is coy and subtle, rapper Juicy J’s contribution is a whole different deal. “She’s a beast,” he proclaims before trotting out some Eastern spirituality (“I call her karma”) and pairing it with a violently graphic prognostication (“She eat your heart out/Like Jeffrey Dahmer/Be careful/Try not to lead her on/Shawty’s heart was on steroids/’Cause her love was so strong”).
Nothing like a little cannibalism reference to spice up a love song, eh?
From there, words waft into a noxious miasma of abuse and sex, drugs and addiction: “She can be my Sleeping Beauty/I’m gon’ put her in a coma/Woo!/D‑‑n, I think I love her.” And she responds by giving her guy exactly what he wants: “Shawty so bad/ … She got me like a roller coaster/Turn the bedroom into a fair/Her love is like a drug/I was tryna hit it and quit it/But lil’ mama so dope/I messed around and got addicted.”
Which is exactly why I’m writing this review. To maybe keep that addiction from starting when it comes to Katy Perry’s officially unofficial music.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.